Asian American Athletes

Today I'm focusing on Asian Americans athletes. I'm not going to lie. When I was growing up, we always got really excited to see athletes who were Asian American. Why? B/c they were rare! Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan were my heroes when I was younger. Who are some of your favorite Asian AMERICAN (must be Americans! Yao Ming and all those Japanese MLB players do NOT count!) athletes?

(Information from Wikipedia, Infoplease, and

Victoria Manalo Draves won gold medals for the United States in both platform and springboard diving in the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. Born in 1924 in San Francisco to an English immigrant mother and a Filipino immigrant father, Manalo wanted to become a ballet dancer. Her family did not have the money to encourage those dreams, so she turned to swimming and diving in school.

In 1948, Manalo-Draves joined Lee in making history by winning gold medals in platform and springboard competitions at the London Olympic Games. She was the first woman to win two diving gold medals in the same Olympic Games, and also the first Asian-American woman to win a medal in the Games. In 2005, a park in San Francisco was named after her.

Dr. Samuel ("Sammy") Lee is the first Asian American to win an Olympic gold medal for the United States and the first man to win back-to-back gold medals in Olympic platform diving. Born in Fresno, California, in 1920, Sammy Lee was the son of Korean immigrants who settled in Hawaii in 1905. In 1947 Lee received his medical degree from the University of Southern California School of Medicine. A year later, his undeniable skills took him to the Summer Olympics in London, where he earned a gold medal in platform diving and a bronze on the springboard. In Helsinki in 1952, Lee won gold in the platform competition, becoming the first male athlete to win two gold medals in that event. He served during World War II and Korea in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. While in Korea in 1953, Lee was awarded the James E. Sullivan Award as top amateur athlete in the United States. After retiring from competitive diving, he coached the 1960 U.S. Olympic team and also trained future gold medalists Bob Webster and Greg Louganis.

Amy Chow is an American gymnast and a member of the famous Magnificent 7 who were the first American team to win Olympic gymnastics gold. Chow was the first Asian-American woman to take an Olympic medal in her sport. Chow began gymnastics training in 1981, and began competing in national and international competitions in 1990. She is primarily known for her performance at the 1996 Olympics where she won a silver medal on the uneven bars and a team gold.

Dat Nguyen is the first Vietnamese American to play in the National Football League. He played for the Dallas Cowboys and is currently their assistant linebackers and defensive quality control coach. His family left South Vietnam during the fall of Saigon which led to the end of the Vietnam War and he was born in a refugee center overseas. He lived most of his childhood in the Gulf Coast town of Rockport, Texas. As a college freshman, he was known as "Fat" Dat, but added muscle and became an NFL prospect. Proving critics wrong at an early stage, he proceeded to leave Texas A&M University as the Aggies' career record holder with 51 consecutive starts, 517 career tackles and a 10.7 tackles-per-game average. His 517 career tackles is currently an Aggie record. The Cowboys went ahead and drafted the most productive linebacker in Texas A&M history in the third round (85th overall) of the 1999 NFL Draft. Nguyen made an impact with the Cowboys from the very beginning, leading the team in special-teams stops as a rookie and becoming Dallas' starting middle linebacker in his second professional season.

Duke Kahanamoku is generally regarded as the person who popularized the modern sport of surfing. He was also an Olympic champion in swimming. Kahanamoku easily qualified for the U.S. Olympic swimming team in 1912, breaking the record for the 200 meter freestyle in his trial heat for the 4×200 relay. He went on to win a gold medal in the 100 meter freestyle in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, and a silver with the relay team. During the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, he won gold medals both in the 100 meters, bettering fellow Hawaiian Pua Kealoha, and in the relay. He finished the 100 meters with a silver medal during the 1924 Olympics in Paris, the gold going to Johnny Weissmuller and the bronze to Duke's brother, Samuel Kahanamoku. He also showed up on the U.S. Water Polo team at the 1932 Summer Olympics. Between Olympic competitions, and after retiring from the Olympics, Kahanamoku traveled internationally, particularly Australia and the United States, to give swimming exhibitions. It was during this period that he popularized the sport of surfing, previously known only in Hawaii, by incorporating surfing exhibitions into these visits as well. Duke Kahanamoku was the first person to be inducted into both the Swimming Hall of Fame and the Surfing Hall of Fame

Kristi Yamaguchi is an American figure skater and the 1992 Olympic Champion in women's singles. Yamaguchi also won two World Figure Skating Championships in 1991 and 1992 and a U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 1992. She won one junior world title in 1988 and two national titles in 1989 and 1990 as a pairs skater with Rudy Galindo. In December 2005, she was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. Her 1992 Olympic gold-medal performance—in which she became the first Asian American woman to win a gold medal in any sport. She was also the first Asian American to appear on a Wheaties box.

On May 20, 2008, Yamaguchi became the celebrity champion in the sixth season of Dancing with the Stars with pro dance partner Mark Ballas. The judges commented that she was the most consistent competitor of any dancer in any season of the show. According to the host of the show, she had the highest scores of any competitor in the show's history

Apolo Anton Ohno is an American short track speed skating competitor and a five-time medalist (2 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze) in the Winter Olympics. He also competed in and won the reality TV show Dancing with the Stars in 2007. Ohno has won five Olympic medals over his career, and is one of only four Americans who has won three medals in a single Winter Olympics game. He has been the reigning U.S. short track speed skating champion since 2001, and has won the U.S. men's title a total of nine times.

Michelle Kwan is an American figure skater. She has won nine U.S. championships, five World Championships, and two Olympic medals. She has remained competitive for over a decade and is the most decorated figure skater in U.S. history. Known for her consistency and expressive artistry on ice, she is widely considered one of the greatest figure skaters of all time.

Michael Chang is an American former professional tennis player. He is best remembered for becoming the youngest-ever male winner of a Grand Slam singles title when he won the French Open in 1989 at the age of 17.

Utilizing tremendous speed and strong determination, Chang was one of the best counterpunchers of all time and remained in the Top 10 in the ATP world rankings for several years in the 1990s, peaking at World No. 2. He is a Chinese American, and was popular in Asia. At that time, there were no other Asian-heritage players among tennis' higher ranks.


  1. Yes, you just listed my 3 favorite!
    Kristi Yamaguchi, Michelle Kwan and Apolo Anton Ohno (My daughter is in love with him by the way!) Did you see Kristi and Apolo on Dancing with the stars? I loved them both, I am so glad they both won!


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